Private Organization Accreditation

Catholic Charities alleviates human suffering and improves the quality of life of 100,000 people annually, regardless of religious background. A staff of 600 provides support and services related to housing, food, mental health, children's services, addiction treatment, and domestic violence services.


Judy Kay, LCSW

Volunteer Roles: Peer Reviewer; Team Leader

In administration for 22 of 24 years at Child Saving Institute, a COA-accredited not-for-profit child welfare agency in Omaha, Nebraska. Retired approximately two years ago, I moved to Tucson, Arizona, where I advocate for children's rights as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer to three young children.
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Children in Family Foster Care and Kinship Care live in safe, stable, nurturing, and often temporary family settings that best provide the continuity of care to preserve relationships, promote well-being, and ensure permanency.

FKC 15: Transition to Adulthood

Youth are supported in their transition to adulthood through individualized planning and preparation that promote well-being, strong support systems, access to needed resources, and skill development.

Note: The transition to adulthood refers to both the developmental life stage and the transition out of the foster care system. FKC 15.01-15.03 and FKC 15.06-15.08 apply to all youth in care who are approaching adulthood, regardless of their plans for permanency. In cases where youth will transition from the system without having achieved legal permanency, FKC 15.04 and FKC 15.05 will also apply. 

Research Note: Research consistently shows that youth who have left the foster care system face more challenges than the general population around educational attainment, employment, criminal justice involvement, substance abuse, mental illness, poverty, and homelessness.
Systematic skills assessment, independent living skills training, involvement of caregivers as facilitators, and developing and maintaining community connections are four overarching strategies that have been identified as effective for preparing youth for self-sufficiency.

NA The organization does not serve youth 14 or older. 

Rating Indicators
All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, as indicated by full implementation of the practices outlined in the Practice standards.
Practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice standards; e.g.,
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted, however, these do not significantly impact service quality; or
  • Procedures need strengthening; or
  • With few exceptions procedures are understood by staff and are being used; or
  • For the most part, established timeframes are met; or
  • Proper documentation is the norm and any issues with individual staff members are being addressed through performance evaluations (HR 6.02) and training (TS 2.03); or
  • Active client participation occurs to a considerable extent.
Practice requires significant improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice standards. Service quality or program functioning may be compromised; e.g.,
  • Procedures and/or case record documentation need significant strengthening; or
  • Procedures are not well-understood or used appropriately; or
  • Timeframes are often missed; or
  • A number of client records are missing important information  or
  • Client participation is inconsistent; or
  • One of the Fundamental Practice Standards received a rating of 3 or 4.
Implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all, as noted in the ratings for the Practice standards; e.g.,
  • No written procedures, or procedures are clearly inadequate or not being used; or
  • Documentation is routinely incomplete and/or missing; or  
  • Two or more Fundamental Practice Standards received a rating of 3 or 4.

Table of Evidence

Self-Study Evidence On-Site Evidence On-Site Activities
    • Procedure for transition planning including collaborating with other service providers
    • A description of services to support youth in the transition to adulthood
    • Procedures for assessing independent living skills
    • Independent living skills assessment tool/criteria
    • Procedures for developing shared living agreements
No On-Site Evidence
    • Interview:
      1. Program director
      2. Relevant personnel
      3. Youth
      4. Resource parents
    • Review case records

  • FKC 15.01

    Preparing for adulthood is a youth-driven, strengths-based process that:
    1. ensures maximum youth participation through involvement in all aspects of exploring and planning for the future;
    2. includes important informal and formal members of youths’ lives;
    3. explores involved adults’ commitment to the youth;
    4. explores the role of peers and peer support;
    5. incorporates attention to safety, well-being and permanency; and 
    6. involves collaboration and coordination among all service providers.

    Interpretation: Implementation of the standard is demonstrated through case record documentation and interviews with youth that indicate that the organization has worked consistently and collaboratively with youth through the planning process to identify and engage family members, friends, natural mentors, and other community supports in preparing for the transition to adulthood. Collaborative, team-based transition planning that begins well in advance of the youth’s transition will naturally promote the development of a positive support system.

    Interpretation: For youth who will be transitioning into adult systems of care planning meetings and discussions should include providers from the adult-serving systems that will be working with the youth. 

    Interpretation: For American Indian and Alaska Native youth, their tribe and/or the local Indian organization must be included in transition planning. 

  • FKC 15.02

    Youth have the opportunity to explore the following with the worker or another supportive professional:
    1. their family relationships and relationships with supportive peers and adults;
    2. their families’ readiness for healthy participation in their lives;
    3. strategies for coping with and healing from stress and trauma associated with grief and life transitions;
    4. the range of housing options available to them, including tribal options for American Indian and Alaska Native youth, as well as the risks and benefits of different housing options;
    5. their academic needs and interests and available educational paths; and
    6. their work interests and skill sets, as well as different vocational interests, career paths, and employment supports.

    Interpretation: Housing options may include a full range from supported living to a fully independent living environment. When the case involves an American Indian or Alaska Native child, the organization should work with the tribe and youth in transition to explore the risks and benefits of housing options within Indian country and prepare youth for this potential transition.

  • FKC 15.03

    The organization works with children, parents, and resource families, to assess the independent living skills of children 14 years and older, at regular intervals using a standardized assessment instrument that includes the following areas:

    1. educational and vocational development;
    2. interpersonal skills;
    3. financial management;
    4. household management; and
    5. self-care. 

    Interpretation: The first assessment should be completed as soon as possible after children’s 14th birthdays to establish a benchmark for measuring progress in identified areas. Systematic assessment normally reoccurs at six or twelve month intervals.

  • FP
    FKC 15.04

    At least six months before they will transition from care, the organization assists youth in developing individualized transition plans that identify specific plans for:
    1. housing and transportation;
    2. education and academic support;
    3. employment and workforce support;
    4. finances/income;
    5. healthcare;
    6. mentoring; and 
    7. social, peer, cultural, and community supports.

    Note: See FKC 11.08 for more information regarding the health-related services and supports that youth should be connected to prior to release from care.

    Note: This standard is required only when youth are transitioning from the system without having achieved legal permanency.

    Research Note: A theme in the area of transition planning is the importance of understanding normal adolescent brain development and using this understanding as the foundation for creating transition plans with youth that support them through these normal developmental stages.

  • FKC 15.05

    As appropriate to each individualized transition plan, the organization ensures youth have information and support around: 
    1. the transfer or termination of custody; 
    2. benefits that will end at transition or case closing, at least six months in advance;
    3. accessing affordable community based healthcare and counseling; 
    4. transitioning to adult systems of care for mental health or developmental disabilities; 
    5. services and supports available to youth who were in foster care for education and independent living activities;
    6. public assistance programs and the court system; 
    7. maintaining an ongoing relationship with their tribe and tribal community members to receive supports and services available from the tribe and engage in cultural activities; 
    8. child care services; 
    9. available support through community volunteers or individuals who have made a successful transition; 
    10. how to contact the organization and what supports the organization can offer after case closing, including information regarding voluntary return to care, as appropriate; and
    11. who they can contact in an emergency, crisis, or for support.

    Interpretation: In regards to element (d), given the potential for vulnerable young adults to wind up abandoned, when youth have developmental disabilities or mental health needs it is essential for the organization to collaborate with adult systems of care in these areas. Planning meetings should include representatives from the adult-serving systems that will be working with youth, and the organization should partner with the providers to facilitate access to services.

    Note: This standard is required only when youth are transitioning from the system without having achieved legal permanency.

  • FKC 15.06

    The organization ensures that youth transition to adulthood with social supports in place, including: 
    1. strong, consistent relationships with committed, caring adults; 
    2. access to cultural and community supports; and 
    3. connections to positive peer support.

    Interpretation: Regarding element (a), the organization should ensure that youth who emancipate from the system without having achieved legal permanency leave care with a connection to at least one adult who will provide a relationship that is safe, nurturing, and intended to be enduring.

    Interpretation: When the organization is working with American Indian or Alaska Native youth, tribal representatives should be active members in the creation of a transition plan.

    Research Note: Youth who leave the foster care system consistently name emotional support as the most common element missing from their lives.

    The organization may consider using permanency pacts, which provide the opportunity to discuss and document specific supports that an involved, caring adult will provide a youth, with the goal of promoting the development of a lifelong relationship. 

  • FKC 15.07

    The organization assists youth in obtaining or compiling documents necessary to function as an independent adult, including, when applicable: 
    1. an identification card or driver’s license; 
    2. a social security or social insurance number; 
    3. a resume; 
    4. an original copy of their birth certificate; 
    5. bank account access documents;
    6. religious documents and information; 
    7. documentation of immigration or refugee history and status; 
    8. documentation of tribal eligibility or membership; 
    9. death certificates when parents are deceased; 
    10. a life book or a compilation of personal history and photographs; 
    11. a list of known relatives, with relationships, addresses, telephone numbers, and permissions for contacting involved parties; 
    12. information about places they have lived (previous placement information); and 
    13. educational records, such as high school diploma or general equivalency diploma, and a list of schools attended.

    Note: Youth should also be assisted to obtain medical records, as addressed in FKC 11.08.

  • FP
    FKC 15.08

    When youth continue to live with foster families past the age of 18, shared living agreements are developed in advance of youths’ 18th birthdays to promote independence, clarify new roles, and establish mutually agreed upon expectations. 

    Interpretation: In many states foster care services have been extended to youth until age 19, 20, or 21. In a developmentally appropriate manner, every youth over 18 should be engaged in a conversation, that is formally documented, that explores and determines the mutual expectations and responsibilities of the living arrangement now that they are not a minor.

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